The Cutting Edge Action Line chronicles specific examples of consumer dissatisfaction and attempts to intervene for consumers in the great tradition of newspaper action lines. Where appropriate, The Cutting Edge refers corporate misconduct to corporate internal investigation boards, regulatory agencies or local, state or federal law enforcement.
Bait and Switch
|Sam Orez||January 11th 2013|
A Florida Verizon user was stunned to discover that the "free upgrade" phone promised by the company was just a come-on. Once he agreed to accept the phone, the hidden charges and broken promises brought the price for "the free phone" up to a triple-digit expense.
The ordeal began when a customer service rep informed the account holder that one of his several phones--a basic flip phone used by a family member--was eligible for upgrade to a free smart phone. Two models were mentioned, the Nokia Lumia and the Apple iPhone 4--both free of charge. The only fee would be a $30 upgrade fee. Then the true cost news began to filter in, the monthly charge would be increased to $120 per year. Now the free phone was $150 in its first year.
Once the customer finally agreed to the upgrade fee and the monthly surcharge, he presented himself at a Tallahassee, Florida Verizon store to pick up the new phone. This was same store that convinced him in a long conference call with a Verizon customer service representative confirming that the Lumia phone was "free," after paying the upgrade charge and monthly surcharge. But when he tried to actually obtain the phone, the customer was shocked to learn that Verizon would not honor the free phone promise. Read more ..
|Sam Orez||December 14th 2012|
Michael Swimm wants to do a good job. He's the special executive troubleshooter in the office of the Staples president. But he is so swamped with complaints, he can't return all the phone calls needed to resolve the unhappiness of angry Staples customers.
Those complaints increased when the office supply superstore told its customers that it would service computers and other hi-tech gear--even items it never sold. In other words, Staples would compete with the Geek Squad. Staples called its failed effort "EasyTech." Unhappily, it was never easy. The program recently ended in a tsunami of broken promises, unreturned calls, and now a completely failure that has left thousands of customers stranded. Staples Customer Service won't even answer customers who ask what happened to their service guarantees and incomplete work projects.
In one all too typical case, a Washington, D.C. small business hired the over-sold and over-hyped EasyTech team to analyse and repair a RAID, that is, a Redundant Array of Independent Drives. Read more ..
|Sam Orez||November 30th 2012|
It started as a reliable promises and quickly broke down into a typical Staples disappointment. The office supply superstore told its customers that it would not only service the hi-tech equipment it sold--but indeed any hi-tech gear in any office. Staples called its effort EasyTech. Unhappily, it was anything but easy. Unfortunately, the Staples attempt to compete with the Geek Squad created a laughable Flop Squad of broken promises, unreturned calls, and now a completely failed program that has left it customers stranded. Staples Customer Service won't even answer customers who ask what happened to their service guarantees and incomplete work projects.
In a typical case, a Washington, D.C. small business hired the aggressively-sold Staples EasyTech team to analyse and repair a RAID or Redundant Array of Independent Drives. RAIDs are comprised of mirrored drives that act as a fail safe system ensuring that even if one hard drive goes down, the duplicate retains the data. But the two must be perfectly synchronized. Getting them synchronized and keeping them synchronizing is daunting to the average user, but an easy task but a skilled tech. The Washington, D.C. corporate customer trusted Staples. Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||May 4th 2012|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Spirit Airlines will begin charging $100 per bag for passengers who bring luggage for stowing in overhead bins. This is the first U.S. carrier to impose such fees for carry-on bags. Currently, the airline charges $45 when passengers show up at a gate with a carry-on bag. The rate hike is scheduled to go into effect on November 6, according to the airline’s website.
The change means that any passenger who comes to a boarding gate without having pre-paid for the privilege of stowing their carry-on will be charged at the new rate. Spirit offers a confusing menu of fees for baggage that are linked to the point during reservations when passengers ‘buy’ the option of taking a carry-on bag. Spirit offers to passengers "ultra low base fares" for airline tickets by paying fees only for "the extras they value," the website says. Read more ..
|Dan Levin||February 15th 2012|
BB&T bank is among the nation's best regional banks. Certainly, it is among the fastest growing through a series of timely acquisitions in various states. Hundreds of cozy branches staffed by friendly officials now dot the commercial districts of North Carolina, Florida, and Maryland.
Unfortunately, in the opinion of some of its customers, the bank has taken a giant step backward with its new online security questions. It seems the bank has revised its security questions to emphasize childhood and child memories that may not apply to many grown up adults.
For example, "What was your favorite place to visit as a child. What was your dream job as a child? Who was your favorite childhood friend? What is the name of your favorite mentor or teacher? What was your childhood phone number? If you could be a character out of any novel, who would you be? What is your dream car? Where were you New Year's 2000? If you won a million dollars, what is the most extravagant purchase you would make?"
The winner may be "What is the name of your most memorable stuffed animal?" Read more ..
Fighting the Digital Giants
|Jude Freeman||January 2nd 2012|
Cutting Edge Correspondent
As the controversial online piracy bill SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) makes its way through the House of Representatives, Go Daddy, the world’s largest domain name registrar, has withdrawn its support of the bill after seeing a flood of sudden domain name transfers protesting the company's position. While major internet companies were united in their opposition of the bill, Go Daddy welcomed the move and called the bill’s opponents “myopic.” Go Daddy has long been a prickly giant on the Internet with its offensive, sexist advertising, inflexible rules restricting ordinary usage, and its split customer service personality where half the phone reps are gracious and the other half are combative. No wonder, users seized the opportunity to punish Go Daddy for a political position on pending legislation which has mixed attributes.
The bill in question aims to curb online piracy of music, television shows, movies and counterfeit goods. With a court order, the US Attorney General could sentence piracy-networked websites to death within days by shutting them down. Financial support would be cut off from sites outside of the U.S and search engines will be forced to remove sites that infringe on copyright from their indexes. Supporters of SOPA include the U.S Chamber of Commerce, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and the Recording Industry Association of America. The MPAA says that the act is completely constitutional but huge internet names such as Google, Yahoo and Twitter stand in complete resistance. Read more ..
Living with the City
|Jude Freeman||November 15th 2011|
Ever wonder what you can do if suddenly the water department presents you with a bill five-, six-, or seven-times your established usage. Residents have complained in cities such as Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Cleveland, Charlotte and Brockton, MA, that they have received anomalous one-time bills vastly above their established usage and in virtually all cases, there are no swimming pools, jacuzzis or other explanations for excessive usage. Apparently, the worst cases are in Atlanta, where city auditors found they were "unable to verify electronic meter readings" because of "meter read errors, equipment failures or human errors." Atlanta city auditors estimated that potentially as many as "9 percent of the meters could not be read due to broken or malfunctioning equipment." A leading manufacturer of water meters condeded in a letter to the city of Atlanta, "It has been an industry experience that typically when a utility does an automatic meter reading, meter change-out and also switches software billing companies, that generally high bill complaints are either due to new meter accuracy and/or a billing multiplier error." Read more ..
|Jeremy Lester||August 1st 2011|
A Las vegas passenger flying to Honolulu discovered that Hawaiian Airlines falsely portrayed $105 surcharge as an "excess baggage charge," according to a written complaint. In fact there was no excess baggage, Action Line has learned. Nor was there a card swipe, authorized purchase or face-to-face exchange with any airline personnel to discuss the charge.
The incident unfolded when a man and his wife tried to board a Hawaiian Airlines flight in Las Vegas bound for Honolulu. They meticulously followed all fare rules with regards to luggage, records show. They were each permitted 2 checked bags, and these did not incur a surcharge. They were also allowed to bring an on-board bag, which in this case was a simple roller, weighing only a few pounds. The small bag contained nothing more than medication and a change of clothes for the long trans-ocean journey. Read more ..
Sony Servicing Nightmare
|Terrence Sterling||March 6th 2009|
Some owners of Sony Vaio laptops are finding that the Sony empire, troubled by financial mismanagement and technical incompatibility, has taken out its troubles on users expecting warranty service. Sony Vaios have a bad performance record. Now warranties are dishonored, avoided, or subject to insurmountable inconvenience. The once-proud San Diego Sony service center seems to be wracking up a record of dissatisfaction among more and more users. The main problem it seems is Sony's policy of using a service subcontractor in Indiana to handle all initial calls for help. That subcontractor has every incentive to reduce service calls and to not honor on-site repair and replacement provisions. Only after a problem escalates to an actual Sony service center, such as the one in San Diego, do competent help professionals take over. In one case, a Florida woman was told by the Indiana subcontractor that when the alphabet letters faded from her keyboard, it was not a legitimate basis for complaint under the warranty. Eventually, when she got to an actual Sony help desk, the keyboard was replaced. That woman ultimately ditched her Vaio and replaced it with a laptop that included an actual manufacturer-controlled help desk.
Big Business and Bad Business
|Allyson Rowen Taylor||May 26th 2008|
Cutting Edge Contributor
Last week, international retailer Urban Outfitters offered the world a provocative hate-inspiring T-shirt with a blatant anti-Israel message that offends Jews, Israelis, and anyone interested in the truth. Perhaps worse, it glorifies child abuse and exploitation, as well as terrorism.
The T-shirt portrays a young Palestinian youth with a keffiya around his neck, clutching an AK-47 in three images. Also pictured on the shirt are the Palestinian territories, and the Palestinian flag. The shirt’s bottom is emblazoned with the word “Victimized” embellished with a red blood image threading through the word. Numerous emails and blogs picked up on the item. A barrage of complaints to Urban Outfitters ensued. Read more ..
Kicking the Oil Addiction
|Steve and Rita Emerson||February 20th 2008|
|Getting Off Oil|
FOR SALE CHEAP….ONE 2006 SLIGHTLY USED HONDA CIVIC GX COMPRESSED NATURAL GAS CAR (CNG).
We really thought we were being the “good guys” when we purchased our CNG car. After all, Honda raved about its performance, gas mileage, and the fact that you could easily refill it in the comfort of your home. Well…that’s not exactly true. Our journey began at the Santa Monica Alternative Car and Transportation Expo in December 2006. On display were many different “green cars” but only a few of which were actually available for purchase. A major Southern California Honda dealer had a fleet of Honda Civic GX’s for sale at the Expo. We were given an amazing sales pitch by their CNG “experts.” A few weeks later we came to the conclusion that buying a CNG car was the right thing to do. Even though we both work at home and drive only a few miles per week, we decided that we would contribute to a cleaner and safer environment by buying a CNG car. Steve went to the Honda dealership and purchased the car. The following day, the car was delivered right to our door by two young, good looking sales people. They treated us like royalty – complimenting us for being such good citizens. They drove off and we never heard from them again. In fact, when things started to go wrong – when we tried to fill the tank for the first time – we were unable to speak to a “real” person at the Honda dealership. We left repeated messages and never received a reply. We called Honda of North America and they said that we would have to deal directly with the dealership. We were told to drive there and confront them in person. Instead, we went to the “big guns”. Read more ..
|by Edwin Black||September 12th 2007|
|BBT'S broken website notice|
BBT is still struggling to bring its online service back to full functionality and cope with outraged consumer backlash. Shortly after the bank "improved" its online software on August 3, 2007 to make it “safer, faster, and more convenient for you,” the website slowed to a crawl, lost and duplicated transactions, clobbered integrated customer financial management software such as Quicken, and in many cases became completely inaccessible. The problems were first reported exclusively by The Cutting Edge. Online function problems heightened during late August and by Labor Day the BBT site became completely inaccessible for many customers during most business hours. In early September, patches and fixes were installed, but problems have persisted so the company has been forced to post a prominent apology on its logon page.
“Recently, you may have experienced slow response times while accessing BB&T OnLine banking.” The statement reads, adding, “Over the past several days, you may also have been unable to log on to BB&T OnLine at different times. We understand this may have made it difficult for you to access your accounts and schedule your bill payments. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. Please know that our technicians are working diligently to expedite a solution. Our goal at BB&T OnLine is to provide you with the Perfect Client Experience for every online interaction. We know we have fallen short of this promise and want to assure you that we are doing everything we can to correct this problem. Thank you for your patience as we work to resolve our performance issues and restore your confidence in BB&T OnLine.”
Consumer Bank News
|By Sam Orez||September 3rd 2007|
|HSBC Local But Not|
A recent call responding to an exquisite HSBC bank brochure inviting new local customers revealed a startling and noisome policy. HSBC does not permit its customers to call their local branch with questions or to receive information. Phone numbers are not listed on the bank's massive website and even the phone company won't provide the number--they are unlisted. In order to reach their local bank branch, consumers must first call an offshore call center in the Philippines and then after evaluation, that offshore call center will decide whether consumers need to be connected. HSBC, which claims to be a global network of "local banks," stands by its policy, insisting it is for the customer's protection and to enhance customer service. One phone bank representative argued, "How can our tellers get anything done if they are answering the phone?" The HSBC phone bank representative went on to explain that all major banks refuse to divulge their branch phone numbers. Not so. Read more ..
|by Edwin Black||September 2nd 2007|
BBT customers have been groaning recently over BBT's overtaxed and sometimes dysfunctional online banking website. The website was inaccessible for several days at the end of August, and the first days of September after the Labor Day weekend, especially in the morning when more people tend to log on. System burps and stutters caused some linked Quicken money management programs to record false double payments created by the overtaxed BBT online site. Attempts to reach the company’s much touted “24x7” online banking help line to correct problems were fruitless. Not a few customers gave up after multiple 30-minute and 45-minute hold sessions hearing the same tedious on-hold messages. Worse, BBT’s online Quicken assistance does not even operate on the weekends when most people often need such help managing their personal finances. Anxious branch officers trying to help their customers straighten out glitches were subjected to the same frustration since they were calling the same BBT toll-free number. At press time, the website was back to normal with some of the glitches resolvable by manually deleting false Quicken entries, and re-entering the needed BBT information. But the web meltdown was a warning sign that with the explosion in online banking, driven both by personal convenience and the banking industry’s growing insistence on paperless relationships, more meltdowns can be expected from BBT and others.